From a workplace Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) perspective, environmental factors can have a profound effect on health – poor air quality can affect the respiratory system, whilst an ergonomically-flawed workstation can affect the musculoskeletal system.
In the same vein, health specialists, researchers and Human Resource professionals link findings of increased hours at work at the expense of one's quality of life, to the increased levels of stress and health issues. Hence, the million-dollar question: "Could the work culture and place, where a person spends 40 to 50 hours a week, and particularly in increasing fashion, affect his or her health?"
When a Technician grabs a bag of chips and works through lunch, or when a Sales Executive foregoes a trip to the gym to return a few more calls, small but important tradeoffs are made. Whether it is sleeping, food, time with their families or exercise, employees forsake something when they spend extra time at work. These trade-offs may superficially benefit the business in the short run, but in the long-term, they can start to cause problems.
Research on work-related stress from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (2000) has indicated that employees' control over their work schedule is very important.
It, therefore, came as no surprise that the PETRONAS' Compressed Work Week (CWW) and Enhanced Flexible Working Hours (EFWH) initiatives to address these issues and promote work-life balance were welcomed with open arms by the workforce.
Head of PETRONAS' HR Transformation Office Zahira Sughra Bt Zainuddin shared in an interview on the sixth episode of 'Today's The Day', "Based on our survey almost three-quarters of employees indicated that CWW is their preferred option."
In the decision to roll-out CWW for PETRONAS, Zahira added,
"The CWW philosophy is to make PETRONAS a great place to work with an environment that is conducive and brings out the best in all of us."
The CWW provides the employees of PETRONAS the option to complete the work week earlier, i.e., completing 39 work hours for the week by the fourth day and rest on the fifth day.
Meanwhile, the EFWH allows employees to opt for working between 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and leave work between 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. after completing eight hours of work. Both CWW and EFWH would be subject to prior approval from immediate superiors.
Employees living in Kuala Lumpur and other satellite towns near the city, generally spend between one to three hours commuting to and from the office. By having the flexibility with EFWH, employees can better manage their journey into work to avoid rush hour traffic and reduce commuting time and stress. On the other hand, using CWW effectively can give PETRONAS staff a head start on the weekend to relax and workout, provide working mums and dads more time with their families and the opportunity to pursue interests or healthy activities so that they can enjoy a better quality of life.
As many of us often find the need to juggle between personal and workplace responsibilities, the implementation of CWW and EFWH will help us achieve the work-life balance that we desire. A balanced lifestyle will enable employees to be more focused and engaged on the job, and stress levels become more manageable, effectively boosting performance.
There is also a significant relationship between the implementation of flexi-time arrangement and job satisfaction and employee performance.A survey conducted by Eagle Hill Consulting Firm among professionals on their preferred working environment showed that majority of the professionals strongly believe that work-life balance (64%) is crucial in defining overall professional satisfaction, followed by job security (59%) and compensation and pay (54%). Meanwhile, 67.1% of professionals felt that high employee turnover rates were associated with poor work-life balance.
Eagle Hill Survey on the preferred working environment of working professionals, 2009.
Eagle Hill Survey on the reasons for high employee turnover rates, 2009.
From the HSE perspective, these initiatives promote work-life balance, which may contribute towards improving stress management in the workplace. Low-stress levels benefit our employees both physically and psychologically, as a healthier body, mind and soul can help to reduce absenteeism due to sickness. Being in good shape and optimal health can also result in a workforce that is more productive and able to deliver optimum performance.
Whilst CWW and EFWH comes with a host of benefits in terms of flexibility required for a dynamic environment; nevertheless, with freedom comes responsibility, and so you must still be able to manage your time effectively without disruption to deliverables.
Lynch, W (2002). Health Affects Work and Work Affects Health. Modern Medicine, Managed Healthcare Executive [online]. Available here. [Accessed March 2017]
Today's the Day Episode 6 (2017). myExplorer [online]. Available here. [Accessed March 2017]
Stress Pulse Survey (2013). ComPsych [online]. Available here. [Accessed March 2017]
Eagle Hill Consulting (2014). The Importance of Work Life Balance. Eagle Hill Consulting [online]. Available here. [Accessed March 2017]
Cox, T., Griffiths, A., Rial-Gonzalez, E. (2000). Research on Work-Related Stress. European Agency for Safety and Health at Work [online]. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. Available here. [Accessed March 2017]